1 Jan 2009

Sharapova hopeful of playing in Melbourne

12:52 pm on 1 January 2009

The Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova is hopeful of being fit to defend her Australian Open title despite withdrawing from an exhibition event in Hong Kong next week.

21-year-old Sharapova has pulled out of the JB Group Classic as she continues to recover from right shoulder surgery.

The world number nine says she's not ready to play top-class competition in Hong Kong.

The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season, starts in Melbourne in 2 and a half weeks.

Sharapova, who missed the Beijing Olympics and the US Open because of her shoulder injury, says it wsa a difficult decision to pull out of the Hong Kong event, but she only started practising 16 days ago.